We've been adapting our outlook for the future to take account of more remote modes of working, and a more intimate collaboration with AI and machines. Topics whose importance we predicted in last year's 2021 Manufacturing Trends are still at the head of the line for 2022, such as safety and predictive maintenance. The core elements of industrial development also continue to feature strongly, including additive manufacturing, big data analytics and resource planning.
1. Health and Safety
Employee safety continues to take centre stage in these years of global health distress, and there are many areas of manufacturing that are adapting their processes to incorporate greater safety measures. In addition to the HSE's COVID-19 guidelines, companies have started to integrate more advanced technology in their systems to improve health and safety and working conditions generally. We're beginning to trust our collaboration with machines such as cobots, and networked monitoring devices are being integrated into all areas of manufacturing. It's likely that safety constraints will soon be enforced automatically, and the move towards dark factories, or lights-out manufacturing, will speed up.
2. Lights-Out Manufacturing
The idea of dark factories, which work without any human participation, is already a reality in many regions. It's not a suitable strategy for all types of industry, so this trend may take some time to develop. People are still wary of an entirely smart factory, and others are concerned with its impact on jobs. On the other hand, industry experts believe that the adoption of lights-out manufacturing is only a matter of time, and is an inevitable next step in the continuing evolution of manufacturing.
3. More Advanced Uses Of The IIoT
The IIoT is advancing, and this manufacturing trend will continue in 2022 as business owners recognise the value of networked facilities controlled from a remote location. The IIoT plays a central role in running, monitoring and evaluating manufacturing systems, and the developments in cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) greatly expand its capabilities. IIoT devices will spread in many areas of manufacturing, including quality control, RFID tracking, warehouse management & logistics, condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.
4. AI, AR, VR & ML
Manufacturing trends for 2022 will see greater use of advanced technologies such as AI and ML. Artificial intelligence and machine learning greatly enhance the performance of equipment, while monitoring its performance and safety. ML makes it possible for systems to speed up decision-making and enhance quality control, as it builds on AI capabilities to teach itself how to work better. Together with CAD modelling, these technologies save money and time in the design & prototyping phases, making production more efficient.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will come into greater play in day-to-day business operations, as distance collaboration on projects becomes more common. Designers and engineers can enter projects from any part of the world, make improvements, or present them to potential customers. Field service technicians now frequently assist customers with basic maintenance via remote voice-over and AR guided instructions.
5. Big Data and Reporting
The IIoT also gives manufacturers the benefit of big data collection and reporting, and this is an ongoing trend. Big data refers to the vast amounts of raw data collected by sensors constantly monitoring the manufacturing process. ML can analyse this, but it needs to be formatted as an understandable report to make it accessible to human analysis. Data visualisation tools or spreadsheets can help analysts to assess real-time data so they can improve their decision making, enhance production efficiency and improve safety. Manufacturers can see a bigger and more comprehensive picture of their business, allowing them to make more carefully directed plans for the future.
6. Predictive Maintenance
We've been talking about predictive maintenance for some time now, and 2022 manufacturing trends will see this as an increasingly popular feature. Typical financial losses due to unplanned machine downtime can be reduced by up to 50%, so it's likely that more manufacturers will adopt PM. Most modern industrial equipment now provides real-time, accurate condition monitoring, so that operational parameters are constantly measured and reported. Analysis of this data allows maintenance to be scheduled in advance, while condition monitoring can also provide alerts on critical components if any unusual activity occurs.
7. 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing)
3D printing or additive manufacturing is already transforming the business landscape, and contributes to the capabilities of predictive maintenance. With this facility as part of the manufacturing network, it’s possible to print some replacement parts on site and make necessary modifications to design parameters. More efficient and reliable components can be produced more quickly using fewer resources, leading to greater productivity, more freedom in design and higher-performing products. A wide variety of products can be printed, from engine parts to tools and toys, and even some food products, so 3D printing will definitely continue as a manufacturing trend in 2022.
8. Resource Planning
The trend for IIoT-enabled resource planning systems will continue, as companies increasingly rely on versatile apps that can be integrated into their existing systems. The last few years have shown us that an agile and robust response to HR management is necessary to cope with today's problems. Managers will be relying more on AI and ML capabilities to adapt to these constantly changing circumstances. Future planning and strategies will take big data into account when forecasting staff requirements, and many other aspects of HR.
9. The Move From B2B To B2C
The pandemic has also contributed to a change in customer behaviours, with lock-downs forcing consumers to buy much more online. Together with factors including shortage of resources and higher margins, manufacturers have been forced to change their market strategies from B2B to B2C. This manufacturing trend will continue in 2022, with manufacturers gearing their operations towards more focused digital marketing and faster completion of orders. With greater concerns about cybersecurity, online customer protection and secure payments will also be high priorities.
10. Onshore Over Offshore
There are many reasons why companies used to farm out their manufacturing to areas like India and China, including cheaper raw materials and labour. However, this policy is undergoing radical change. In 2020 and 2021 the joint factors of Brexit and COVID-19 wrought significant damage to international trade and relations as well as to overall economic conditions. Many companies are therefore deciding to return their manufacturing to the UK. Logistics are simpler and cheaper, while the economic benefits of increased automation and AI will offset the higher labour costs. Supply chain problems should be reduced and communications greatly simplified. Reshoring is therefore a manufacturing trend that is likely to be prominent from 2022, as more companies decide to bring their business back home.
In summary, the impact of COVID-19 continues, but 2022 manufacturing trends are towards greater connectivity and machine collaboration, health and safety and reshoring.
This article was originally published at: 10 Manufacturing Trends For 2022